Social buffering is the phenomenon in which an affiliative conspecific (associate) ameliorates stress responses of a subject. We previously found that social buffering in Wistar subject rats is induced if the strain of the associate is Wistar or a strain derived from Wistar rats. In the present study, we assessed the possible role of medial amygdala (Me) in this strain-dependent induction of social buffering. The subjects were exposed to the conditioned stimulus (CS) that had been paired or unpaired with a foot shock either alone, with an unfamiliar Wistar associate, or with an unfamiliar Fischer 344 (F344) associate. We found that the Wistar associates, but not F344 associates, ameliorated increased freezing and Fos expression in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and lateral amygdala caused by the CS. In addition, Fos expression in the posterior complex of the anterior olfactory nucleus and lateral intercalated cell mass of the amygdala was increased simultaneously. These results suggest that Wistar associates, but not F344 associates, induced social buffering. In the Me, we did not find any differences associated with stress responses or amelioration of stress responses. In contrast, a comparison among the unpaired subjects found that the Wistar associates, but not F344 associates, increased exploratory behavior and Fos expression in the posteroventral subdivision of the Me (MePV). Based on these results, we propose that the MePV is involved in the recognition of social similarity with the associates. Taken together, the present study provides information about the possible role of Me in social buffering.
Keywords: Affiliation; Group identity; Medial amygdala; Social similarity; Strain recognition.
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